South Korean automaker Kia Motors have made major inroads in the US market in recent years, but their history is one that stretches back a good bit further than you might be aware.
When they first arrived on the scene, Kia was mostly known as a company that delivered well-equipped vehicles at very affordable prices.
While the brand now delivers high levels of technology and sportiness, they still maintain the value component of their business.
Kia founded in 1944
Kia Motors Corp was founded in 1944 and started life as a maker of bicycle parts and steel tubing.
By the time the 50’s rolled around, Kia was making bicycles, which they soon upgraded to motor scooters, most notably the C100.
The 60’s saw an expansion of products, which included 3-wheeled cargo vehicles and motorcycles.
It was only a matter of time before cars were included, with the following decade pegged for that to happen.
First car production plant in South Korea
It was all systems go in 1973 when Kia finally built a production plant in Sohari, which was also the first fully integrated automobile production facility in Korea.
The first internal combustion engine in the country was produced there, as was the first passenger car, the Kia Brisa.
The Kia lineup had expanded to include the likes of the Concord, Capital, and Potentia towards the end of the 80’s.
Ford brought the Kia built Pride to the US in 1987, renaming it the Ford Festiva for that market. That car sold well for 7 years before being replaced by the Aspire, which was also built by Kia.
Kia come in the USA
It was around that time, during the early 90’s, that Kia started selling vehicles in the US under their own badge name, with the Sephia the first to arrive.
It was not what could be described as a huge introduction, as the car was only available in the Western states at the start.
The demand for vehicles was changing, and the SUV was starting to take off. Kia their hat into the ring in 1995 with the Sportage compact SUV.
As 2000 approached, the Kia rollout in the US was pretty much complete. Kia would have likes to have expanded further in the late 90’s, but financial problems due to the Asian financial crisis made that impossible.
Those issues were eased when Hyundai picked up the company in a 1998 merger. That merger served as the turning point for Kia, as their vehicles quickly improved in quality, build, and performance.
Reliability, which had initially been an issue with the Korean-made cars, was also vastly improved.
The addition of an incredible warranty program helped build consumer trust in the Kia brand.
The Kia name is still thought of in terms of great value, but it is now increasingly known as one that also delivers performance and sporty styling.